Eric Nam has finally returned with a long-awaited EP, Honestly, after two years. The sweetest guy in k-pop is forging a different path with the title track of this release. He’s by no means trying to be bad, but “Honestly” attempts to rub a bit of the shine off his boy-next-door exterior. To that effect, Nam fails miserably. Even though the song contemplates a break-up, he is incredibly likeable and watching him wandering around in the sun does little to take away from that image.
“Honestly” is a laid-back dance number where the protagonist contemplates breaking up with his romantic interest, but you’d never know from the video. It’s very light on plotting and instead showcases the incredible visuals of the famous Mexican city, San Miguel de Allende. Nam spends a significant amount of time in the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez, a former convent and current cultural centre in Mexico. The video starts on the first floor of the two-story cloister and descends to the courtyard, showing the fountain before leaving the historical site.
The visuals of “Honestly” could be used in a tourism package for Mexico or to, more generally, promote wanderlust. Nam runs through the cobbled streets of San Miguel, poses beneath the bougainvillea, and moves through countless other Instagram worthy locations. His solo shots are interspersed with a hot air balloon in flight and a mysterious woman.
The video evokes the feeling of restlessness through constant motion. Nam runs through the streets, hitchhikes, and finally finds his hot air balloon, where the woman is waiting. The final scenes show Nam watching from the field as the woman takes off in the balloon by herself. Considering the lyrics of the song are about the protagonist working to breaking up with his romantic partner, the girl in the balloon could be seen to represent the idea that the two will pursue separate adventures.
Lyrically, “Honestly” is complex and interesting. The protagonist does not want to hurt the romantic interest but is no longer in love. The acknowledgement of the self-interested nature of the breakup, by the protagonist, is unusual in its honesty. People don’t normally admit that they are playing along in a relationship to avoid conflict.
“I do love you but I’m a bit tired
I’m too scared to hurt you
I’m not being nice, I’m doing this for myself
This lie of saying I still love you”
The visuals subtly support the ideas of the song as Nam is shown running, which could be interpreted as a moving through an emotional journey, so he can separate from his lover. He has to travel through the annals of his own mind and emotions to reach the point where he can be honest with the other person in the relationship. It is portrayed as a long journey, but by no means does it come across as arduous or unpleasant. This growth is beautiful and ends with positivity.
Nam’s growth as an artist, travelling away from his nice-guy image, is also subtle and endearing. In a showcase for his EP he said, “in fact, I felt burdened with my fixed image as a sweet and romantic guy as I’ve been portrayed in TV programs. But such prejudice came as a burden to me, pressuring me to act so.” The version of him in “Honestly”, as a man about to break up with his love, isn’t unappealing at all. He might not be as romantic, but he’s self-reflective. He does not want to hurt his partner, and at the same time, wants more for himself. That kind of emotional maturity and honesty is very appealing in a world of deception.
“Honestly” does something unexpected with its wistful visuals and bittersweet lyrics. It gives you bad news in a way that is quintessentially Eric Nam — irresistibly likeable. He may not want to be the sweet, romantic guy any longer, but it doesn’t feel like much of a loss when the new Eric Nam is this appealing. If “Honestly” symbolises a break from the old, the new sounds like the beginning of a wonderful adventure.
(YouTube, Lyrics via Pop!gasa, Korea Herald, Frommers, Images via CJ E&M Music)